An Interview with Taylor Johnston of Gamine Co (Part One)

Gamine Workwear is designed by Taylor Johnston, Manager of the Gardens and Greenhouses at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, Mass.  Understanding how important it is to create gear that holds up to hard work, every Gamine product (and repair technique) is put to work in the garden before it’s added to the shop. Read more about Taylor and Gamine Workwear.

Gamine Factory

Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.

The people who know me best will tell you that I am a non-linear person. Maybe it goes back to my mom’s constant advice growing up that ‘boredom comes from within.’ I think it made me realize how fortunate I am to be born here, at this time, and with freedom of choice…I guess the short answer to this is I’ve been a horticulturist now for the last 12 years.

I’ve worked on flower farms, botanic gardens, and private estates growing all kinds of edibles and ornamentals. I am most myself when I am in the garden. I studied horticulture and geology in college and have a Master’s in Philosophy- as my colleague says, it qualifies me to do manual labor.

I am extremely proud to work in a trade that reinforces the idea that there are no shortcuts to success. It’s all about getting your hands dirty, not complaining, making mistakes, and doing the work for many, many years. My mentors tell me it’s dangerous to think of oneself as an expert in anything – I think that this is eternal advice.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

Making careful observations about the natural world each day as a gardener greatly impacts the decisions I make in my apparel business as I see the interconnectedness of it all.

How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?

In many ways I am an outlier in the field of apparel-Though I am named after a seamstress, I am a self-taught and for the past 4 years have been studying the art of pattern making with my beloved pattern mater. My point of view is informed by the practical nature of my work and my lifelong interest in personal style.

What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?

Thoreau famously noted that every decision is a moral one–as natural resources become more precious and our world becomes increasingly populated, there is a moral obligation to consider the people and resources behind products. There has never been a more important time to vote with your checkbook.

Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?

Yvon Chouinard-he walks the walk. Not only a brilliant environmentalist, he continues to seek better ways of doing business and offsetting the real costs of manufacturing.

What is Gamine Co?

After being photographed by Bill Cunningham while installing the infamous Nasturtium vines at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, I found myself on the hunt for stylish, functional workwear for women.

Taylor, Photo by Bill Cunningham

When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and without any formal education in fashion, I decided to tackle the problem myself. Partnering with the oldest and most respected domestic denim and workwear manufacturers, a cadre of field testers, and a genius pattern maker at a renown denim label (who was bored stiff making skinny jeans) I launched Gamine in the spring of 2014.

We are proud to be a small women’s workwear company hopelessly devoted to natural materials, sustainable production, durability, and our community of hardworking sisters.

What are some of its feature products?

Our signature Slim Slouch Dungaree and Sweetwater Trouser. Women’s pants are

notoriously difficult and we’ve done a ton of leg-work (pardon the pun) to understand fit, body types, and materials for our products. Everything is tested in the real world before being offered in shop.

What is your customer base – the demographics?

It’s a real mix of women who are working hard in the field and women who support the materials and design decisions for true blue American made workwear.

There have been large tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, which was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured.

Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires (2012). What are the importance of human rights and worker rights in this new movement, and to the garment industry?

It’s essential and it’s always been important to consider the people behind our products. As workers ourselves, what kind of company would we be if we didn’t extend the same ethos to the talented hands that create our products? We celebrate the narrative of the worker from trim to thread and only work with those who treat their employees the way we like to be treated.

Continued in part two…

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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